A Palm's PastMature

Paul Baker’s eye instantly snapped open as he was awoken from sleep. He lay still, listening to the silence that had sunk deep into the room. His black hair was wet from sweat stuck to his forehead. His bedroom was in complete darkness except for the digital clock on his nightstand by the bed. The red light bled 2:10 AM against the bed sheets. Paul looked at the numbers, wondering if they had any significance. He was not one to believe in coincidences, everything happened for a reason. He lay unmoving, wondering why he had woken up. Could this be the night?

            He knew that he hadn’t been dreaming; he rarely does anymore. He slowly sat up and listened. The walls to his room were bare. In the twelve years that he had lived there he had never put a single picture up. The rain outside must have either quit or turned to snow because he no longer heard the soft patter against the solitary window. His cabin, located about ten minutes from town and surrounded by looming oak trees, a small pond, and a handful of evergreens, was thick with silence as he strained to hear in the darkness.

His golden retriever, Sandy, softly snored from her bed on the floor. She often competed in some type of doggie chase while she slept and her legs kicked around randomly. Her innocence and enduring love made Paul smile to himself. Other than his dog, Paul lived alone. Unlike other people, who feel like they need to surround themselves with people to feel safe, Paul preferred living alone. It was safer that way for him. He only trusts himself anyhow.

            Paul moved to the edge of his bed and swung his feet around to the cool hardwood floor. His eyes were slowly getting used to the darkness. The silence seeped through the air and into his lungs. He sat there for a moment and stared at his hands. He gazed into his worn palms and for a split second loud images of the past flew through his head. He was a carpenter now but using his hands for his work was something that he was always accustomed to. They were callused and strong, like Paul himself. His hands were the only reminder of his past. No matter what beautiful creations he carved he would always be ashamed at some of the things he had once done with these hands.

            Paul sighed and glanced at the clock again, only to find that a mere few minutes had passed. He felt uneasy about this night, this moment, and he had no idea why. Paul had not had a feeling like this in years. He gazed wistfully over at Sandy and watched her enjoying whatever ‘dog get rabbit’ dream she was having.

Paul got up and went down the hallway to the kitchen where he grabbed his pack of cigarettes. He slowly moved the blinds on the sliding glass doors to the side so he could view the deck and landscape outside. He had been wrong about the snow. Instead, the clouds had cleared off and the moon now cast shadows from the trees in the backyard. Paul pulled on a Vermont University sweatshirt, over his head and stepped out onto the deck and into the serenity of his backyard.

The moonlight glistened off of the small pond as Paul leaned against the railing and inhaled his cigarette. He rubbed his beard stubble as he let out a breath of smoke that slowly meandered its way to the thick forest and to the stars above. He often came to this spot to think and relieve stress. He liked to bring out solid blocks of maple and rough mahogany and turn them into something beautiful and clean. He could often relate to his work and he put his heart and soul into each and every cut that needed to be made. He could spend hours whittling and chain smoking in the presence of his outdoor escape. But on this night, he simply breathed in the stillness and the calm that surrounded his cabin and he did something that he tried so hard to not do. He remembered.

 

Ralph, Paul, and Frankie Mazagotti took no chances. They could not afford to. The brothers did exactly as their Pops told them and if anybody got in their way, then they would be handled with properly. Their father, Antonio Mazagotti, was the Italian mob boss of Boston, Massachusetts. Just hearing the Mazagotti name made other crime lords lock and shut tight their front doors. The entire New England and northwestern United States lived in fear of the Mazagotti’s. The gang was made up of many brutal street members along with a handful of actual blood related family members. If you lived in downtown Boston (or as the locals called it: Bah-stun), then you knew that you were in Mazagotti terrain and you abided by their wishes. Tonight, the three brothers were going to make the family name proud. Live! Die! Mazagotti!

Ralph was the eldest of the three brothers and self-appointed leader of the three. It was common knowledge that Ralph would soon take over as Mob Boss for the aging Antonio. Good looks ran in the family and Ralph, with his tanned skin and jet-black hair was no exception. Antonio’s favorite was an expert at semi-automatic and automatic weapons. He never went anywhere without a loaded gun strapped underneath his jacket. Word on the street was that Ralph was so accurate with a gun that he could shoot an unborn baby between the eyes simply by aiming a pistol down the mother’s throat and squeezing the trigger.  

Paul Mazagotti was the middle child in the threesome. He was terribly good with knives. It was almost foolish for someone to challenge Paul with anything other than a nuclear weapon. In fact, even when outnumbered three to one and with only a knife in hand, the opposition would almost always flee or die. Paul preferred to kill with his knife because he loved the intimacy. He enjoyed being so close to a person when he gave them their last breath. Paul was always one to get his hands wet. Sometimes, when he was almost finished with a person and on a hatred high blood lust, he would carve their faces up so bad that they would be unrecognizable for the Boston Police.

      The youngest and perhaps the worst of the Mazagotti brothers was Frankie. Frankie liked to kill with an arrangement of different household objects but his main accomplice was fire. The young killer could make a weapon out of anything. Ballpoint pins to the eyes, a broken beer bottle to the throat, and a crowbar to the knees would wound his adversary just enough for Frankie to finish the deed with lighter fluid and a match. Many times during the autopsy reports it was found that the victims had been lit on fire before they actually stopped breathing.

Frankie was so dangerous that he scared his brothers at times with his crazy demeanor. Antonio saw Frankie’s brutality and raw emotion as a weakness and he rarely let Frankie go out on deeds without one of his brothers. Frankie was always the rebellious one. Him and Antonio frequently argued and yelled. The arguments were normally small and filled with false threats. There was no way Frankie’s way would win with Antonio in charge.

They made quite the threesome, these brothers. It was on a cold December night when their three lives, and all of the lives of the Mazagotti Mob, were changed forever.

 

“Hey Paul, lets get out of this dump, eh? We got places to go and eh, people to see, ya know?” Ralph’s breath stank like stale beer and his eyes were slightly red from all the smoke in the bar. He and Paul had been sitting there for over an hour, casually wasting time while waiting for their brother’s phone call. They had finished two packs of cigarettes and many beers between them and they knew it was time to go. The bartender didn’t make eye contact, let alone ask them to pay the tab, when they got up to leave the old tavern. The people in the bar kept their heads down and were silent as the two made their way to the door.

“Shit, its cold out. Where the hell is Frankie?” Paul asked. Ralph muttered something in agreement and turned the collar of his black jacket up hiding the lower half of his face. They had made their way to an old and beat down duplex. They stood in the shadows with their hands tucked into their pockets. Their breath hung into the night air like little clouds. No lights were on inside the duplex but they knew that the occupants were expecting them at one time or another. They were supposed to have met Frankie outside the house well over thirty minutes ago. The beat down duplex belonged to a group of Irish drunks who thought that they rightfully deserved a piece of the neighborhood. This little date had been set up by Antonio to “give those little Irish bastards a little reminder of whose town this was”.

“Well, come on then. Let’s go have a little chat with these filthy Scotties. We will deal with Frankie later.” Ralph pulled a pistol out of his belt line and took the lead by jumping the steps to the front door. They could see a dim light on inside and they heard the familiar faint voices of the Irishmen. Paul stabbed the doorbell with his knife and pounded his knuckles against the doorframe. A light haired bearded face opened up the door an inch before immediately trying to shut it.

“Oh no ya don’t!” Ralph stuck his boot in the way preventing the door from being closed. “We came all this way to see ya and your gonna leave us in the cold? What shitty manners you freakin’ Scotties have!” Ralph’s crazy smile twisted upwards. He knew the Irishmen loathed being referred to as “Scotties”. Like most Mazagotti men, Ralph knew the pressure points of the enemy.

Ralph and Paul slammed into the front door and each threw a punch to the gut of the doorman. Paul grabbed the guy by the hair and put a knife to his throat, and they all three went into the kitchen, where a high stakes card game was being held on the table. There was a moment of silence as the Irish card players looked through the smoky kitchen at Paul and Ralph. Inside their heads they all calculated what had just happened.  Then, in an instant, everyone was standing and shouting and pointing their weapons. It was chaos inside the kitchen. Spit and curse words flew at an alarming rate. Ralph had his gun drawn and was waving it around while Paul tightened his grip on the still stunned doorman.

            “Easy, you little scum!” Ralph yelled as he put a bullet through the ceiling to get everyone to shut up. “We didn’t come to talk about your stinkin’ gamblin’ issues! Now everyone shut the hell up!” Every Irishman quieted and stayed standing, except for one who remained sitting at the table. His dark hair was quite the contrast to the other poker players.

            “Frankie, what the hell…?” Paul eyed his younger brother with disbelief. He tightened his grip on his knife. Frankie was sitting at the table and had yet to look up from his playing cards. Ralph stared at Frankie with eyes full of pure hatred- more than Paul had ever seen. He felt it too. Their brother had betrayed them.

“You’re wondering where I’ve been Ralphie? Paulie? Well, come to your conclusions now because it’s the last ones you will ever make.” Frankie’s voice was quiet but edgy. He kept his head down, his hair hanging in his face, and his eyes staring intently into his cards.

“You see brothers, there are times when a man knows when his cards need to be folded. With some trash, you simply cannot win.” Frankie finally looked up at his brothers and let of cloud of cigarette smoke out towards them.

“I killed Antonio.” He turned over the ace of spades and held it up for them to see. “You will soon join him! I don’t have to follow any of your fucking footsteps! I will control the Mazagotti name and streets of Boston!”

He lit the ace of spades on fire and the room was deathly quiet. Frankie’s eyes lit up almost like they were on fire themselves and, as he threw the burning card toward Paul and Ralph, the room erupted with gunfire. A blonde Irishman fell to his knees with a gaping red hole in his neck. With everyone firing at once it was as if one deafening bomb had exploded. The room moved in slow motion. Paul saw Ralph’s body jolt backward and then fall to the floor. Blood and smoke flew from him. Frankie had not moved from the poker table as he watched the murders in front of him. Ralph lay unmoving; his pistol had fallen from his grip, a wisp of smoke gently flowed from the end of the barrel.  

Paul felt the doorman he was holding onto shutter and go limp in his arms. The dead human shield did not help and Paul felt the bullets dig into his own chest. He let the Irishman crumple to the ground in front of him. Paul staggered back and then collapsed on the floor. Like a broken marionette he was left sitting against the wall. He reached towards his chest and felt the wet and sticky bullet holes. His breathing was slowing down and the room went silent. Frankie finally stood up, came over, and knelt down by his brother. He clasped both hands around Paul’s face and looked into his eyes.

            “You see Paulie, I follow no one.” Frankie whispered into his brother’s face. “Everyone will answer to me or burn. It’s my time now.” Frankie’s eyes were lit with anger and evil while he face stayed coldly neutral. Paul’s vision slowly darkened. This was the last time Paul ever saw Frankie.

 

 

           

            It had been almost thirteen years since that night and even with his hoodie on, Paul still felt chills. He could never forget the bloody details of the Mazagotti excursions. He could still see the hatred that burned inside of Frankie’s eyes. After the incident with Frankie and the Irishmen, Paul had awoken by the scent of fire burning his lungs. He had been thrown in a dumpster along with Ralph’s body and left to burn alive among the trash. Somehow Paul had managed to climb his way out of the dumpster and collapse on the street. His body was found by a few Boston police officers.

In exchange for everything he knew about Frankie and the Mazagotti Mob, the police gave Paul a new last name and a new future. He moved north to Vermont, where he could live within the shelter and isolation of a forest. Instead of feeling anger or the need for retribution, Paul had felt a change come into his life. The incident had completely morphed his persona. He would never again use his hands to kill.

In a way he thought, he and Frankie were alike. They had both turned in or against their own blood. Paul had heard through news reports that most of the key members of the gang had been found and convicted, but it was a widespread fact that Frankie still roamed and ruled the streets. In the back of his mind, Paul knows that he will always live in fear of Frankie.

Finishing his drag on the last cigarette Paul thought of the memory of Paul Mazagotti. It was like Paul Mazagotti was a completely different person. The brutality that he had brought to the streets was the work of a stranger’s hands and not the hands of Paul Baker the carpenter. Paul studied the reflection of the stars and moon on the pond. The deep black sky made the pond water look infinite in its depth. He was at peace here.

After smoldering the cigarette butt into an ash tray on the deck Paul got up and stretched. He went back inside the cabin where no moonlight reached. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the darkness but he knew the way to his bedroom without having to see the path. Paul yawned as he saw his alarm clock’s red numbers. 3:26 AM. He took off his hoodie and was getting ready to lie down in bed when he realized that he was not alone in the room. The darkness prevented him from seeing the whole figure sitting in the chair in the corner, but he knew who it was.

“What are you doing here?” was all Paul could manage to say. His voice was raspy and instantly dry from fear. Neither of them moved. Paul stood on the left, by the foot of his bed while the figure remained sitting in the chair across from him. The more the seconds and silence continued, the harder it was for Paul to believe that he had actually found him. A small noise flicked and a flame appeared in the figure’s hand.

Frankie held the lighter up so that the room was faintly illuminated. The eerie orange glow lit up his features. He had changed over the years. His hair was longer in the back and a jagged scar was now etched across his right cheek. He had big dark circles under his eyes that made him look like a crazed animal. But even in the small flame’s light Paul could see that his eyes had not changed. The criminal and psychopathic eyes burned towards Paul.

“You haven’t changed a bit have ya now, Paulie?” It was more of a statement than a question. “Ya think moving away changes who ya are? What ya are capable of doing? We have the same blood Paul. You can never change that no matter how far ya go.”

Paul swallowed and remained silent, all the while searching for some type of weapon that he could use against Frankie. There were some small carving knives in the desk behind him if he could only get there quick enough. He slowly stepped backwards and almost tripped on something behind him. He snuck a quick glance down at his feet and saw Sandy. She had a dress belt tied tightly around her neck and was not moving. Her dead eyes were open and Paul could see the flames reflection in them. Sweet, innocent Sandy brought cruelly to her death. Anger from somewhere foreign started to brew deep inside of Paul. It had been a long time since Paul had felt hatred in his soul.

“Ya know, I don’t blame ya, Paulie. I would have given those pigs information too. Did you forget to remember that I own most of the police force? Like I said before, they all answer to me…or they burn. Some people never fully understand that do they Paulie? You will pay, ya know.”

Frankie’s voice was steady. His eyes never left Paul’s face. Paul could almost feel the heat that they brought. He matched the glare and listened. The fire’s flame danced shadows around the room. Paul’s fists tightened. A trickle of sweat ran down his back.

“But ya just can never outrun your past. Ya knew I’d be here eventually right Paulie?” Frankie chuckled like he was he was catching up with an old friend. It was the most disturbing sound Paul had ever heard.

“I have planned out this night ever since I learned that your heart was still beating.  And tonight, I will finish what I started years ago. And I will enjoy every second of it!”

In an instant the flame went out and the room was reduced to complete darkness. Frankie hurled himself into Paul and knocked him flat to his chest on the ground beside the bed. Sharp pain ignited through Paul’s ribs and the wind was knocked out of him. His head was being shoved against the floor and Frankie’s knees were digging into his back.

“You think you are better than me, Paul? You think you can just escape from who you really are? You can’t leave your past behind, Paul! You can’t escape me!” Frankie looped an extension cord around Paul’s neck and then shoved his head back to the floor. Terror and anger flowed though Paul as he began to lose precious oxygen. The cord bit into his neck. With his face pressed against the floor his eyes searched under his bed. Within an arms grasp was a piece of solid oak perhaps ten inches long and four inches thick.

“This is it brother, you bastard! How does it feel to know that I control your dying seconds? Give my regards to the rest of the family in Hell!” Frankie leaned back on the extension cord like it was the reins to a sled and Paul could feel his eyes bulge from the pressure. But his fingers had grasped onto the brick of wood.

 With all of his remaining strength Paul quickly rolled to his left causing Frankie to lost balance and release the extension cord. Paul swung the chunk of wood with all his hatred and fear against Frankie’s face. His nose instantly snapped as he fell to the floor and Frankie’s blood splattered against Paul’s face. Paul seized the moment and fell on top of Frankie, pounding away at his brother with the wood.

Paul wasn’t sure how long he sat there swinging down at Frankie’s head. Soon his arms grew tired and he eyes were burning with tears. His pounding slowly stopped and he dropped the bloody piece of wood to the floor. Blood began to form a pool by his knees. Paul’s body was shaking. He hands were warm. He moved himself across the floor and leaned up against the wall. He closed his eyes and took in deep breaths. His breathing was staggered and his body still shook. He brought his convulsing and wet hands to his face and wept. He cried because of the terror, of the pain, of the relief. His bloody hands had been cleansed. His past had finally died with Frankie Mazagotti.

 

 

 

              

The End

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